In Which a Trip to Little Tokyo Yields Some Quirky Finds…

Lotte "Drink Mix" Candies

Choto Stop, the little Japanese grocery along Pasong Tamo, never ceases to amaze me with the sheer variety of goods it stocks in such a small space.  Years ago, when it was still called Co-Op, it was the only place in Makati where I could get sweets like those tart, little e-ma candies, traditional Japanese cakes and sweets, and those Gothic Lolita gummies in rose-peach and lavender-grape flavors.  It was also one of those rare places that carried Japanese art supplies, so my sister got all those wee packets of colorful origami paper to play with.

These days, the place is much bigger and the selections are more extensive.  What’s more, virtually everything is just P 80.00 (US$ 1.88) – unless you’re looking at those huge instant ramen packets that go for P 50.00 (US$ 1.17) apiece.  That said, you can grab boxes of curry roux, soba, and Lord only knows what else – as well as a few quirkier treats which my sister and I picked up on our last trip.

First up are these Lotte “Drink Mix” candies.  These hard, boiled sweets mimic the flavors of several popular soft drinks produced by Suntory and are commonly available in Japanese vending machines.  There are five kinds of candy in each bag which is pretty much a graphic approximation of a standard vending machine: Dakara Fresh Start (a grapefruit-flavored electrolyte-replacement drink along the lines of the more popular Pocari Sweat), Acerola Refresh (a tart little number flavored with acerola [Barbados cherry] and does wonders for your complexion because of its antioxidants), Nacchan (a popular orange soda), CC Lemon (a bracingly tart lemon soda – much sharper tasting than Mountain Dew), and the deal-breaker: Dekavita C.  That last one is pretty much the bad-egg of the lot because it’s supposed to taste like the popular energy drink Lipovitan – which, alas, tastes pretty much like diluted kids’ vitamin syrup.

Hello Kitty O-sakana Furikake

Isn’t the package cute?  And the contents aren’t so bad, either.  The Hello Kitty O-sakana Furikake bag shown here has eight packets filled with tasty furikake made with four kinds of fish (mackerel, bonito, anchovy, and sardine) that’s perfect for sprinkling over plain boiled rice, rice balls, or even pan-fried noodles.  Fish-haters need not worry, of course; Choto Stop also has the all-vegetable kind in stock.

Ramune!

And this is what got my sister all giddy: ramune – and not just any sort of ramune, mind you.  It’s the real stuff, the rather sweet lemon soda in the odd Codd-neck bottle with the glass marble that makes drinking directly from the source a challenge.  Not really my cup of tea, but it sure made my sister happy.

There’s lots more to see, buy, and try, of course.  So, should you find yourselves in the Little Tokyo area, give Choto Stop a try.  Believe me when I say you won’t regret it.  😀